The Helen Gjessing award goes to Anna Francis

Virgin Islands community members have joined together to foster a new tradition, starting this year. This tradition will recognize and honor those who serve their community  tirelessly selflessly, and courageously.
 Cherly Rae, on behalf of the HG Community Service Award volunteers and event

HG Award Press Release







Honoring a friend of Mandahl Bay

Fred Watts loved to walk the beach of Mandahl Bay with his dogs at his side, enjoying the peace, solitude and beauty of this bay.  As his grand children came along, they too joined him as he shared one of his favorite places and made priceless memories.  For 35 years, Fred loved this bay and worked on saving it and preserving it.


On June 17, 2015, Fred Watts passed away calmly and peacefully, surrounded by family, love and music.  Fred is survived by his wife, Polly; son, Colin; daughter, Karen; four granddaughters, Austen, Sydney, and Spencer Watts, Abigail Farrington; numerous nieces and nephews; and his beloved dog Cassie.

A celebration of Fred’s life will be held on Saturday, Aug. 15, at Magens Bay Shed No. 2 from 2 to 5 p.m.

In honor of Fred, and as a lasting tribute, The Watts family requests friends make a donation to Save Mandahl Bay, a cause Fred strongly supported.  Please make checks payable to VICS (VI Conservation Society) noting Save Mandahl Bay in the memo line, 4126 Anna’s Retreat, St. Thomas, USVI 00802 – or by credit cards

Thank you to The Watts Family… we will always and fondly remember Fred.




Mandahl Bay Film Wins at International Competition


23-1/2 acres: No Development Needed wins “Black Coral Award for Best Documentary Under 20 Minutes” at the Third Annual Reef Renaissance Film Festival held Saturday at Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas.

St. Thomas, USVI–(June 8, 2015) Friends of Mandahl announces today that a documentary film highlighting Mandahl Bay has won top honors at the Third Annual Reef Renaissance Film Festival held on Saturday, June 6. Filmmakers from around the world were showcased at the event which focuses on conservation, sustainability, and the ocean resource.

23-1/2 acres: No Development Needed is filmed and produced by Karl Callwood, member of the Steering Committee of Friends of Mandahl, in cooperation with several local environmental organizations.

Callwood sees the award as continued validation for the preservation of Mandahl Bay.

The vast bio-diversity of Mandahl Bay is indeed unique enough to concern the world’s ocean scientists and environmentalists. Mandahl Bay is now internationally archived. It is my hope that because of this win, any future developer incursions at Mandahl Bay will automatically trigger the journalistic curiosity of the world’s best environmental filmmakers.


Mission Blue Partners with Friends of Mandahl




Mission Blue is proud to partner with Friends of Mandahl as they work tirelessly to protect Mandahl Bay from a proposed development project that could severely damage vital coastal habitat on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas.


Photo Credit: Richard Gillette


“We are all very excited about this news,” stated Friends of Mandahl Steering Committee member Karl Callwood. “This partnership signifies that scientists, environmentalists and 30 million everyday people from around the world are recognizing the critical significance of the Mandahl Bay ecosystem.”

Read more on Mission Blue’s website by clicking this link Fighting to Protect Mandahl Bay



Hyatt may be pulling out of Port of Mandahl

smb news

Mandahl Bay Holdings ‘in Discussions’ About Future of Project
St. Thomas Source article by James Gardner, February 24, 2015
Reports that Hyatt is looking to pull out as operator of the hotel proposed for the bigger Port of Mandahl project were neither confirmed nor denied Tuesday, but the developer’s attorney did say that discussions are ongoing about what happens next.

An attorney for developer Mandahl Bay Holdings told the Source on Tuesday he could not confirm reports. “That is an issue that is under discussion right now,” George H.P. Dudley said.

In November, former Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Mandahl Bay Holdings principals met at Government House on St. Thomas and signed agreements to facilitate the development, which would still have to be approved by the Senate and make it through the Coastal Zone Management Committee’s permit processes.

According to the agreement, Mandahl Bay Holdings – a subsidiary of New-York based Transcontinental Realty Investors – would invest $209 million during the first phase of the project, which includes the development of a Hyatt Regency Hotel, a 50-slip marina, private estates and marina townhouses, and 48,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.

The second part of the project includes the expansion of the Mahogany Run Golf Course, which developer Karl Blaha has said the company also closed on in November. The expansion would include the construction of a conference center, ballroom, junior ballroom and additional meeting rooms, among other things.

Previous attempts to develop Mandahl Bay have been opposed by the local community, which has expressed concerns about the protection of marine and plant life in the area. A large group also attended a recent information session at the proposed development site, which gave senators a chance to find out more about the plans.

Please leave it the way it is


Just please leave it the way it is and let us have our fun. Please.

By Kiana Quetel, age 9, St. Thomas – VI Daily News, February 13, 2015


Hi, my name is Kiana Quetel.

Mandahl Bay is my favorite bay in the world. I spend most of my time there because there is so much to do and look at.

I swim and snorkel with my Daddy. My Mommy, Daddy, little sister and I have gone fishing and watched the pelicans and other birds there. Every day after school, I go there with my little sister and my aunt. Most of my beach parties were there. I call Mandahl Bay “Salt Pond.” All of my friends love it. I started riding my bike there. Just please leave it the way it is and let us have our fun. Please.

My aunt told me that they want to build a huge hotel, but there are so many other places that people can build a hotel. Why do they have to build it at Salt Pond? I wish that I could make them understand how much I love Salt Pond. I wish that I could make this go away, but my aunt said that it is the job of our governor and senators, the people we voted for to help save Salt Pond. She tried to explain for a long time who these people were and what they do, but it was too hard for me too understand.

I told my aunt that I wanted to vote too, to help save Mandahl Bay and she said that I had to be at least 18. I am 9 years old and I am asking the people who are supposed to help to please do something now.

Thank you,
   Kiana Quetel


Senators Tour Mandahl Bay


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Slideshow images courtesy of Friends of Mandahlpage-break


smb news

Developers and environmentalists vie for senators’ attention during Mandahl Bay tour
Published: February 11, 2015

ST. THOMAS – Ten senators went down to Mandahl Bay on Tuesday to see with their own eyes the land Mandahl Bay Holdings wants to turn into a resort and marina.

They were met with dozens of opponents to the project, who followed the senators around as the lawmakers listened to the developers explain what they want to do in the area.

A local homeschool group with small children splashed and kayaked in the salt pond; teenage environmental activists challenged the developers on the impact such a development would have on the ecosystem; and a group dressed as Taino Indians set up tables with information about the ancestral natives of the islands.

Mandahl Bay Holdings has plans to build two hotels and a marina on the northside of St. Thomas, near and around Mahogany Run and incorporating Mandahl beach.

Standing on the beach, George Dudley, the attorney representing Mandahl Bay Holdings, told senators that the area is used as a drop-off point for human trafficking, drug trafficking and murder.

“The best thing for the area is development,” Dudley said.

A chorus of objections drowned out Dudley.

“Why would you want it if there are so many negatives?” Friends of Mandahl Bay member Sharon Hupprich said.

“You just don’t get it,” Mandahl Bay Holdings President Karl Blaha told the outraged crowd, shaking his head. “The environment is going to be improved.”

When someone shouted that the land is meant for the people, Blaha responded: “We own this land.”

Senators in the bush

The site visit by senators was organized by Sen. Janette Millin-Young, the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning.

Senators who spent the morning visiting Mandahl Bay were Jean Forde, Novelle Francis Jr., Justin Harrigan Sr., Almondo Liburd, Terrence Nelson, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Clifford Graham, Tregenza Roach, Kurt Vialet and Millin-Young.

As senators traipsed around the beach and wetland areas, they asked a few questions of the developers and their representatives.

When asked how the fishermen who launch their boats from the salt pond area would be affected by the development, Springline Architects’ Tracy Roberts said the project includes a dinghy dock for the fishermen that will be available for use free of charge.

She said when dredging is done in the marina basin, it will impact the ecosystem.

“The fish will die, during the dredging,” she said. “However, once we’ve completed this, they will come back.”

She said the same goes for birds and other wildlife that likely will be scared away by construction but will return to the area when the work is finished.

An eye on the ecosystem

Roberts said the developers plan to hire consultants to do “resource gathering” to catalogue the natural resources on the property. That information will go into a master plan, which will have much more detail on exactly how the area will be developed.

The developers will avoid damaging the ecosystem wherever possible and will mitigate any damage that does have to occur, Roberts said.

At one point, she mentioned the “Save Mandahl Bay” documentary, made by Karl Callwood, that highlights the wildlife and unique environment of Mandahl. Roberts said the project’s environmental consultant, Amy Dempsey of BioImpact, saw the video and said it could have been shot at a number of areas around St. Thomas.

The crowd exploded in anger.

“There are only two ecosystems like this on the island, here and in Red Hook. You cannot record this anywhere else,” 16-year-old Jonisha Aubain said.

She suggested senators pay a visit to any of the other marinas around the island that were allowed to move in and destroy wetlands and mangrove lagoons to see how much of that wildlife came back.

“Let’s compare the difference,” Aubain said.

Details in flux

Several senators asked why the details of the project still seem to be changing.

Dudley said it costs a lot of money to move ahead with the more detailed planning and design, and that stage will not commence before the lease agreement is in place.

However, Dudley said he recognizes that senators want to see more details before approving the lease.

“We’re getting into a chicken or egg situation here,” Dudley said.

Blaha said he appreciates the concerns of the community, and the project is not taking the environmental concerns lightly.

“The work has just begun,” he said.

As the project moves ahead, there will be a number of federal and local permits that will have to be secured – all of which will require severe scrutiny, according to Blaha.

“We will have to comply with every requirement necessary,” he said.

The first 99-year lease, which the proposed lease would replace, was signed in 1964 by former Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky. That deal was for a developer to build a hotel on the nearby island of Hans Lollick and 150 homes and a marina at Mandahl Salt Pond. That project never got off the ground, and the lease has traded hands several times in the decades that followed.

The Hans Lollick piece was separated from the Mandahl lease and currently is owned by a different developer.

The latest developer, Mandahl Bay Holdings, applied in 2009 for land and water CZM applications that were met with strong opposition from the community.

More than 400 people attended a public CZM hearing on the two permit applications for the project in March 2009.

The CZM committee denied the permits, but the developers appealed the decision to the Board of Land Use Appeals, where it has languished without action ever since.

The developers of the revamped project, “Port of Mandahl,” said that appeal will be withdrawn and the project will submit brand new CZM applications if the lease is ratified by the Senate.


Please do the right thing Senators



Vote down this proposed lease for those you represent now, and for future generations.
By Susan M. Parten, P.E  – submitted to the VI Daily News

Honorable Senators:

The reason for this letter is to share with you my concerns and opposition to a lease requested by Transcontinental Realty Investors, for their proposed development in Mandahl Bay. While such a proposed lease agreement is not yet before the 31st Legislature, and would need to be sent to you anew by Governor Mapp, I feel it’s important to emphasize certain overarching circumstances surrounding this proposed development. I was very glad to hear that most of you visited the site this week, some of you for the first time, where this massive commercial development is proposed.

I have read about, and seen concept renderings for the proposed development. Though there’s much that could be said about the “performance history” of those requesting this lease, — and I do hope you have done or will do your due diligence in that respect — I will only comment here on those things I can speak to professionally, as a civil – environmental engineer having formal education/training and over thirty years of experience in these areas of science and engineering. Continue reading

A special place in my heart

profleMandahl Bay holds a special place in my heart
By Nolan Diehl, submitted to the VI Daily News and the St. Thomas Source

People of the Virgin Islands, my name is Nolan Diehl and I am writing this letter to support the Friends of Mandahl Bay in an effort to preserve this Caribbean community that we are blessed to call home.

I was born in the cold, grey, and bleak state of New Jersey where industry was such a prominent facet of everyday life that it superseded the natural world. Fortunately, my parents moved our family to the beautiful island of St. Thomas when I was four and my recollection of those early years is faint. For the next 20 years our family grew together in Mandahl Bay, relishing all of the priceless wonders this unique setting had to offer. Continue reading